Now that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are the clear frontrunners for the Democrat Party nomination, some blue-state Democrats find themselves wringing their hands with the following question: “Who has a stronger chance of actually winning in red-state America? A white woman or a black man?”
I find this question very disheartening, if not surprising. Such sentiment succinctly encapsulates part of why the red-state, blue-state gulch sill exists and is probably widening in America. To assume that red states are less open than blue states to either a woman or an African American leading this country ignores an obvious electoral history.
First, let’s take a look at the history of black politicians in red states vs. blue states, shall we?
(And for the record, I am using the 2004 Presidential election to determine which states are red and which are blue even though some states such as New Mexico and Iowa often flip back and forth.)
In the entire history of the United States, only three black men have ever held the governorships of any states. They are P.B.S. Pinchback of Louisiana. Douglas Wilder of Virginia. And Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. That’s two red states and one blue state.
In the US Senate, four black men and one black woman have served their states. Three were from blue states. Two were from red states.
112 black men and women have served in the House of Representatives. 66 of them were from red states. 46 were from blue states.
So in sum, throughout US history more African-American politicians have been elected to offices of national prominence in red states than have been in blue states by a factor of 7 to 5.
What about Women office holders?
There have been 30 female state governors. 13 have governed blue states. 17 have governed red states.
There have been 35 women in the US Senate. 14 were from blues states. 21 have been from red states.
Do you see a pattern here?
There have been 215 women representatives in the House. 122 were from blue states. 93 were from red states.
(Okay, that broke the trend, finally.)
So, in sum, 149 women have served blue states in offices of high national prominence while, 131 women have served red states.
Women politicians in blue states have outpaced their red state counterparts by roughly 15 to 13. That’s pretty close.
So, going back to this notion of asking who is more likely to win in red state America — a black man, Barack Obama, or a white woman, Hillary Clinton, is irrelevant because history clearly shows we ought to ask it of blue states as well.
It’s not a matter of which strain of bigotry (sexism or racism) is more likely to sink the Democrat candidate in middle America. Yet, the question has been mulled as a serious consideration to take to the polling station. I lived in a red state for 25 years and I’ve lived in a blue state for 9. To be honest, the pervasiveness of racism has been stronger where I live today than it was where I spent my first two and a half decades. That’s not to say both places aren’t without their mixes of bigotry and tolerance but, as I write this, a race-feuled gang war has been raging in a nearby suburb for the last six months. Such a thing was once beyond my experience having come to the West Coast from fly-over country.
When blue-state Democrats go to the polls on Super Tuesday, they should forget about who is more superficially viable in red state America. I would put hard money on Condoleezza Rice, for example, if she were running head-to-head against not just Hillary or Barack, but also Edwards, Biden and every other white male Democrat to win in almost single every red state.
The question isn’t whether a white woman or a black man is more likely to pinch off a red state or two, so much as what can a Democrat possibly say policy-wise to win over middle America — period.
Forty-plus years after one red-state American asked all others to judge his children by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, isn’t it time for blue-state Americans to trust their red-state cousins to do just that?
History proves they are up to the task.